Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires and the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, along with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), is urging the public to keep safety in mind when preparing holiday meals.
Cooking fires are more likely to happen on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year. In 2014, nearly four times as many home cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving than compared to any other typical day. US Fire Department’s respond to approximately 1,730 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving Day.
NFPA studies show cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home fire injuries. Hundreds of Americans are killed each year due to home cooking fires and thousands more are injured. Annually, cooking fires cause more than half a billion dollars in direct property damage to homes and the belongings inside. The leading contributing factor to these fires is unattended cooking. In fact unattended cooking is also the contributing factor in fire deaths. Cooking equipment is involved in almost half (48%) of all reported home fires and civilian fire deaths.
It can be easy to get wrapped up in entertaining guests, but it is important to remember to monitor meal preparation closely as most cooking fires start because cooking has been left unattended.
NFPA offers these tips for safer cooking:
• Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food.
• If you must leave the home for even a short period of time, turn off the stove or oven.
• If you are simmering, baking, boiling or roasting food, check it regularly and remain in the home while food is cooking. Use a timer to remind you that the stove or oven is on.
• Stay alert. Don’t cook if you are sleepy, have been drinking alcohol, or have taken medicine that makes you drowsy.
• Keep things that burn – potholders, oven mitts, paper or plastic – off your stovetop.
• Don’t store things that can burn in an oven, microwave, or toaster oven.
• Clean food and grease off burners, stovetops and ovens.
• Wear clothing with sleeves that are short, close fitting, or tightly rolled up.
• Keep kids away from cooking areas by enforcing a “kid-free zone” of 3 feet (1 meter) around the stove.
• Use the stove’s back burners whenever possible, and turn pot handles inward to reduce the risk that pots with hot contents will be knocked over.
• Never hold a small child while cooking.
Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety urges consumers to use extreme caution when preparing their holiday meals with a turkey fryer because of the dangers frequently associated with the devices. Tests have shown that the fryers have a high risk of tipping over, overheating, or spilling hot oil, leading to fires, burns, or other injuries.
The cooking method, which has become increasingly popular in recent years, requires placing the turkey in three gallons or more of oil, heated by propane. Some opt for frying, believing it delivers better taste and cuts down on cooking time; but the units have come under scrutiny as Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., an independent product safety-testing organization, has decided not to certify any turkey fryer with their UL mark.
Some concerns about turkey fryers:
• When the turkey is placed in the hot oil, oil may spill onto the burner, creating a fire.
• The units can easily tip over, spilling hot, scalding oil onto anyone or anything nearby.
• Most units do not have automatic thermostat controls, so oil may heat until it catches fire.
• The sides, lids, and handles get extremely hot and may cause burns.
The Bureau of Fire Services urges consumers to use cooking equipment that has been tested and approved by a recognized testing facility.
“Unattended cooking is the primary cause of residential fires, By simply oven-roasting a turkey the traditional way, or ordering a fried turkey from a grocery store or caterer, who are experienced in deep frying food and use professional-grade frying equipment, consumers can reduce the chance for serious burns and injuries.”
However, if a turkey fryer is used, here are some tips for safer use:
• Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other material that can burn.
• Never use turkey fryers on wooden decks or in garages.
• Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
• Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls causing the oil to continue to heat until it catches fire.
• Never let children or pets near the fryer when in use. Even after use, never allow children or pets near the turkey fryer. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot, hours after use.
• To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
• Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect eyes from oil splatter.
• Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water do not mix, and water causes oil to spill over, causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.
• The National Turkey Federation recommends refrigerator thawing and to allow approximately 24 hours for every five pounds of bird thawed in the refrigerator. Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby and use it if the fire is manageable. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. If the fire increases, immediately call 9-1-1 for help.